Hearne: Westport Lobbies KC for Festival License to Compete w/ P&L District

It’s time to level the party playing field…

For four long years the Power & Light District downtown has held a huge advantage in festival licensing over other Westport and other Kansas City entertainment districts. All while costing Kansas City taxpayers millions of dollars in subsidies with deficets projected as high as $15 million a year.

Unfamiliar with festival licensing?

It’s the practice of allowing patrons to carry drinks outside of bars and restaurants onto streets and sidewalks. Kinda like Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

It’s a competitive advantage the Power & Light District has had for far too long, says Westporter Bill Nigro.

"Just in sales tax alone this past year, Westport has given the city over $3 million," Nigro says. "And by the way, the sales tax for the Power & Light District goes to pay off the loans that were used to build the whole thing. So the city doesn’t get to keep that money."

To that end, Westport is asking for the city to allow it to have festival licensing to compete with the P&L.

"Creating that kind of district for Westport, I think, would increase the sales tax money we pay the city by at least 15 percent," Nigro says. "It would be smart business for our city and it would allow Westport to compete against the city-owned Power & Light District."

To date, it’s been a long, uphill slog.

"We’ve been trying to get this to happen since the day the Power & Light District opened,"Nigro says. "And here’s what the city and state gave us instead. We get to compete with them 12 days a year – not 365 days. And listen to the hoops we have to jump through. We have to measure the center of Westport right in front of Kelly’s – we have to draw a circle and measure 350 feet in all directions. But first we have to get the X / Y coordinates from outer space, then measure 350 feet out and determine who all the property owners are.

"Then we have to get signed consents from half of the property owners and we have to do that for each of the 12 events. And until this year, we had to take a notary with us to get everyone’s signatures notarized. But this year we don’t have to take a notary with us – what a deal!"

Westport’s bottom line:

"It’s un-American that the city won’t let us compete on the same playing field," Nigro says. "It’s un-American. Why can’t Westport just get a festival license too? Because in the past, the city’s never tried to help us, and when we ask them about the festival license, they point the finger and say it’s the state’s fault."

Westport isn’t buying that excuse, Nigro says. After all, the city got it done for the P&L.

There’s another reason Westport’s been trapped on the 12 Days of Hell a Year Plan, Nigro says.

"Power & Light developer Cordish spent a lot of money on lobbyists to keep Westport from getting that same privilege," he says.

To that end, Nigro’s enlisted City Councilman Jim Glover – author of the Glove Plan – to help rescue Westport and generate more income for Kansas City.

"I just went to councilman Glover last week and told him we really want to get something done this year before the weather turns warm," Nigro says. "And if we’re not going to get it, I want to know why. And he said, he’d look into it and hopefully he’ll help us out. It just takes a couple people to introduce the ordinance to make it happen. And then they all vote on it. It’s the city that’s instrumental in making this happen.

"What the city needs to understand is, the sooner they get this done, the more tax money we’re going to hand them. I’m not mad at the Power & Light District, it was the right thing to do. But the city has to be fair and we were here first and were cordonning off our streets long before the P&L was.

"And we’re the local guys. The city is letting the out-of-towners do it and telling the local guys, sorry. And we’re the ones handing them money. I just want to hand them more money."

Stay tuned…

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14 Responses to Hearne: Westport Lobbies KC for Festival License to Compete w/ P&L District

  1. balbonis moleskine says:

    Westport is a public place and should have public access
    I think it is questionable they let P&L open carry (only inside the KC live area which is nearly enclosed).

    I think it is absurd they may let Westport do the same. The bar owners would like to remake westport in their own image as a bar district, closed to cars, run by private security. The truth is that westport is an eclectic mixed use community that straddles a main east-west street in KC. I am shocked that they can block off traffic and charge admission to a public place (they used to snag a buck from you just to walk into westport!), and bar people from that public place using their private security guards (who are given the air of authority as they stand by the hired police officers).

    For an industry that is fickle, there is really little turnover in Westport. You could be drinking in Kelly’s and Buzzard in 1980,90,2000, or today. Yet somehow these guys seem to always be complaining that they are nearly out of business. I don’t buy it.

    I used to live in a city that had open carry rules so I have no problem with it per se. My problem is that in KC, ‘open carry’ means they will close off the street and charge admission for your right to drink a PBR at Buzzard. And lord knows how good of an idea it will be to open carry in westport where you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a Cop.

  2. jon says:

    good times
    I remember the convention. It was always a big deal for KC. The Star and TV always gave it big play even though it wasn’t open to the public. Why didn’t it continue here?

  3. Doodles says:

    Westport’s lame if you think about it.
    I agree completely with Balbonis. Westport is doing all right. Sometimes I think it’d be easier to go to P&L because it’s less crowded on the weekend.

    But yeah, I never understood how they can charge admission and shut down public streets in Westport. Fuck Westport, they’ll bitch about everything.

  4. Hearne says:

    I disagree…
    They close the streets off now because they can only do it a dozen times with a huge hassle, so they use it for big events like you are saying. If they had it 365 days a year like P&L it would be highly unlikely that they’d try and charge people on a daily basis.

  5. Shelly says:

    Westport has always been a red-headed step child
    I spent nearly 15 years of my life as a loyal employee in Westport..I was there through the wonderful GLORY days of Westport…………I was also there during the downfall. The downfall was not because of the owners and employees who adored Westport. The city and the city alone was afraid to crack down on rules that should have been put in place long ago.
    Let a little fight break out on the beloved Country Club Plahhhhhhhhza….Good Lord, the Mayor is out and a whole SWAT team…armed.
    Let people say what they want about the P&L/ Westport feud………..my husband and I have tried to go to the P&L district on numerous times and decided not to pay a bundle to park and walk for blocks to get there.
    as for blocking the streets, Westport was trying to do the citys’ job by not allowing parents to drop their underage children off to be babysat by people trying to do their real jobs……making sure patrons are safe and having a good time.

  6. HARLEY says:

    would love it…
    can’t wait til st. pats day in westport…been doing in for 28 years…best one was on a saturday…80 degres
    outside…probably 50,000people in the streets…Red has a photo of it and shows it proudly.

  7. Matt says:

    Nigro bitches so much to the City Council….
    that no one listens to him any more (Glover will listen then do nothing). His exagerations are well known and the Trolley scam (which stops at his restaurant and ties up traffic) have soured many people on him. Word is he’s a pretty good guy…just full of BS like his buds Hearne and Craig.

  8. coolrunnings says:

    That’s how Nigro got his nickname
    Dollar Bill Nigro made a buku off selling dollar slices out the Pizza Wagon. He needs open festival license so he could make more dollars. You go Dollar Bill Nigro!

  9. newbaum turk says:

    Bring on the beer in the streets in Wesport. Make it Bourbon Street. They need to repeal the ridiculous new strip club laws in Missouri before the All-Star game this year too.

  10. John Short says:

    Level the Field
    This should be simple regardless of who you think is bitching or who is making money. We can’t support free enterprise while handcuffing one entity and not the other. As a non-drinker it doesnt affect me one way or the other, but as a business owner it is offensive.

  11. Hot Rod says:

    Make It Fair
    This whole effort is for ALL the PRIVATE entertainment districts to be able to compete with the city subsidized districts. It is not a Westport issue alone. The Cordish dog and pony show is now trying to stick it’s nose in the CWS in Omaha now that they have a brand new downtown ballpark. It is not fair to the hard-working entrepreneur/business owners that gamble THEIR OWN MONEY to try and make a better life for themselves. These TAX PAYING citizens are waging a competition with an OUT OF TOWN entity that PAYS NO TAXES(other than sales tax) and receives FREE 10-20 MILLION DOLLARS depending on how bad of a year they said they had. The PRIVATE owners in the same boat get a “Nice try maybe next time” or “Tough Break”. I understand that we can’t have a “white elephant” across the street from the Sprint Center, however, this is hardly fair to everyone else. Doodles and BM they haven’t charged for 2 years and as far as street closures many cities have “foot traffic” only entertainment districts which are quite nice and much safer for pedestrian use.

  12. balbonis moleskine says:

    another night on the road, another sold out show
    You guys are missing the point a bit. Westport is not a private entertainment district. It is a neighborhood, bisected with a public street. If we do the NOLA open drinks thing, westport road gets closed for traffic.

    Why should Bill Nigro get the right to turn Buzzard Beach open on the public areas? Do we really need people drinking in the parking lots between Kelly’s/Foundry and Buzzard where people park their cars? There are already too many bars in westport. I don’t need the street and parking lot bar too.

  13. Merle Tagladucci says:

    I get that Nigro wants to make more money anyway he can, but from a patron’s perspective why am I going to walk out in the streets of Westport with my beer? Are there chairs out there? Is there a bar stool on the curb with my name on it? If so, you have my attention. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’m gaining here, other than the ability to roam one block this way or the other. And where am I going once I get out there? Westport is not Bourbon Street…

  14. Hearne says:

    Too much of a good thing?
    While I’m sure Martini Corner and Waldo would like to get in on this action, it makes the most sense for Westport. Given the density of the bars and restaurants and its decades long rep as KC’s primary entertainment district.

    Opening up the entire to city seems a little extreme and maybe hard to police. 31st Street thru Martini Corner is a major nighttime street, as is Wornall Road and 75th Street in Waldo.

    Plus Waldo is so spread out. It’s a long walk between Lew’s and The Well, Kennedy’s etc. No sure what the advantage would be for people to be lugging beers and highballs over such a great distance.

    As for closing Westport Road, they already do on weekend nights in the summer when the weather’s good. And it’s not a big deal killer as there are plenty of other streets to crisscross on.

    The idea isn’t to attract middle age suburbanites to drag down and drink wine coolers on the curbs. It’s to open thing up for the 20 and 30-somethings that are in party mode and maybe want to road outside, have a smoke, get something to eat at a food truck, window shop, hang out in the night air, etc.

    Throw in a couple art fairs, live bands and/or DJs and other themed events and you’re there.

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